It happens to the best of us—we start working on a project, and suddenly we’re sidetracked by something else entirely. Whether it’s a Facebook notification, a text message, or an email, distractions can quickly derail our productivity.
To avoid getting caught up in distractions, it’s important to be aware of what might cause them. Once you know what your triggers are, you can take steps to avoid them.
Here are a few tips for avoiding distractions so that you can stay focused and get your work done.
Common Distractions in the Workplace
There are a few common distractions that can occur in the workplace, including:
- Social media notifications
- Text messages
- Phone calls
- Office chatter
To avoid these distractions, it’s important to be aware of when they’re likely to occur. For example, if you know that you’re likely to get distracted by social media notifications, you can disable them on your computer or phone. If you know that you tend to get pulled into office chatter, you can try to avoid it by working in a different area of the office or wearing headphones.
“A personal system that I developed years ago to deal with distractions is the “two-minute rule,” says Jae Pak, Founder of Jae Pak MD Medical.
“If an activity will take less than two minutes, then do it right away. This simple hack has helped me to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid getting distracted.”
Procrastination is another common issue that can lead to distractions. When we procrastinate, we often turn to things that are easy and don’t require much effort, such as scrolling through social media or reading the news.
To avoid procrastination, it’s important to have a plan for your work day and break down your tasks into manageable chunks. You can also try setting a timer for yourself so that you stay on track.
“I find that the Pomodoro Technique is helpful for dealing with procrastination,” says Sara Alshamsi, Chief Operating Officer of Big Heart Toys. “This technique involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. After four of these sessions, try taking a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
“This strategy helps to break down your work so that it feels less daunting and allows you to take regular breaks so that you don’t get overwhelmed.”
There are a few things that you can do to stay focused on your work and avoid distractions.
First, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind for what you want to achieve. When you know what you’re working towards, it’s easier to stay focused and on track.
It’s also helpful to create a work schedule for yourself and to stick to it as much as possible. This will help you to stay on track and not get sidetracked.
Finally, it’s important to take breaks when you need them. When we try to push ourselves too hard, we often end up making mistakes or getting overwhelmed. By taking breaks, you can give yourself time to recharge so that you can come back to your work feeling refreshed and ready to focus.
“Whenever I start to feel myself getting distracted, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself of my goal,” says Dr. Michael Green, Chief Medical Officer at Winona. “This helps me to refocus and get back on track.”
If you find that you’re struggling to stay focused, there are a few apps that can help. These apps allow you to block distractions so that you can stay on task.
Many companies support their employees using such apps to help them stay focused while working from home. Research a few to find one that would work best for you.
Get Organized, Stay Organized
If you’re trying to avoid distractions and stay focused, it’s important to be organized. Having a clear work space and knowing where everything is can help you to feel more in control of your work and less likely to get distracted.
“I find that being organized helps me to stay focused,” says George Fraguio, Vice President of Bridge Lending from Vaster Capital. “I have a specific place for everything in my office, and I make sure to put things away when I’m finished with them. This helps me to avoid distractions and stay on task.”
It’s also important to set boundaries with the people around you so that they know when you’re working and not to disturb you.
“I let my family and friends know when I’m working so that they don’t disturb me,” says Brittany Harrer-Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “This helps me to stay focused and avoid getting distracted by things that are going on around me.”
Set Tasks within Blocks of Time
Like the Pomodoro Technique, setting blocks of time for specific tasks can help you to stay focused and on track.
“I find it helpful to set aside a block of time for each task that I need to do,” says Miles Beckett, CEO and Co-Founder of Flossy. “This helps me to stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked. I also make sure to take breaks in between so that I don’t get overwhelmed.”
The importance of breaks cannot be overstated. Far too often, people try to work through breaks in the hopes of getting more work completed. But this is usually counter-productive as it leads to fatigue and burnout.
“Your body needs time to rest and recharge, so it’s important to take breaks,” says Jorge Usatorres, VP of Universal Diagnostic Laboratories. “If you try to push yourself too hard, you’ll end up making mistakes and getting overwhelmed.”
When we try to do too many things at once, we often end up doing all of them poorly. This is because our brains are not designed to multitask.
“Multitasking is a huge distraction,” says Caleb Ulffers, CEO of Haven Athletic. “Whenever I’m trying to focus on one task, I make sure to turn off all distractions so that I can give it my full attention.”
By avoiding multitasking, you can avoid making mistakes and increase your productivity.
Set a Timer
Do you often find yourself getting lost in your work and forgetting to take breaks? If so, it might help to set a timer.
“I set a timer for myself so that I know when it’s time to take a break,” says Tony Staehelin CEO of Benable. “This helps me to stay on track and avoid getting too wrapped up in my work.”
“For the longest time, I used to power through my lunches hoping to get more work done,” says Vincent R. Chan, Chief Financial Officer at Christina. “But that just led to me feeling more stressed and burned out. Now, I make sure to take a break to eat lunch and recharge. This helps me to come back to my work feeling refreshed and ready to focus.”
The Importance of Self Care
If you’re finding it difficult to focus, it’s important to take a step back and check in with yourself. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating healthy meals? Exercise?
When we don’t take care of our physical and mental health, it’s difficult to expect our bodies and minds to perform at optimal levels. Make sure you’re taking the time for self-care, and you’ll likely find it easier to focus on the task at hand.
In addition to self-care, there are a few other things you can do to avoid distractions and increase your focus.
Set aside a specific time for working on your task
When you know you only have a limited amount of time to work on something, you’re more likely to focus and get it done. Trying to work on something here and there throughout the day will likely result in you getting less done overall.
Find a quiet place to work
If you can’t find a quiet place to work, try using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. White noise or calming music can also help block out distractions and allow you to focus more easily.
This means turning off your phone, putting away any irrelevant materials, and closing any open tabs or windows on your computer that aren’t related to what you’re working on. If you need help staying on task, there are a number of productivity apps that can block distracting websites and apps or track your time so you can see how long you’re spending on each task.
Working for long periods of time without a break can lead to mental fatigue and make it more difficult to focus. Make sure to take a few minutes every hour or so to move your body, get some fresh air, or just take a short break from thinking about your task.
Set a goal
When you have a specific goal in mind, it’s easier to focus on what you need to do to achieve it. Make sure your goal is realistic and achievable, and break it down into smaller steps so you can track your progress along the way.
Simplify your to-do list
If your to-do list is long and overwhelming, it can be tough to know where to start and what’s most important. Break your list down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and focus on one thing at a time.
Practice focusing regularly
Like with anything else, the more you practice focusing, the easier it will become. Make a point to set aside some time each day to work on improving your focus. Start with shorter intervals of time, and gradually increase the amount of time you’re able to focus for.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your focus and getting more done. Just remember to be patient with yourself and to give yourself breaks when you need them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the habit of focus.